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Supply and demand
The demand for lower boiling
point (shorter chain) fractions is
greater than the proportion
found in crude oil.
Crude oil contains more higher
boiling point (longer chain)
fractions, which are in lower
demand and are less
economically valuable.
There is therefore a shortage of
shorter chain fractions and a
surplus of longer chain ones.
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What is cracking?
Cracking is a process that splits long chain alkanes into
shorter chain alkanes, alkenes and hydrogen.
C10H22 C7H16 + C3H6
Cracking has the following uses:
it increases the amount of gasoline and other
economically important fractions
it increases branching in chains, an important factor
for petrol
it produces alkenes, an important feedstock for chemicals.
There are two main types of cracking: thermal and catalytic.
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Thermal cracking
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Catalytic cracking
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Thermal vs. catalytic cracking
Catalytic cracking has several advantages over thermal
cracking:
it produces a higher proportion of branched alkanes, which
burn more easily than straight-chain alkanes and are
therefore an important component of petrol
the use of a lower temperature and pressure mean it is
cheaper
it produces a higher proportion of arenes, which are
valuable feedstock chemicals.
However, unlike thermal cracking, catalytic cracking
cannot be used on all fractions, such as bitumen, the
supply of which outstrips its demand.
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